|Ipswich Town 3 v 0 Bristol Rovers|
Saturday, 5th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich Town 3-0 Bristol Rovers - Match Report
Saturday, 5th Sep 2020 16:56
Freddie Sears scored twice and skipper Luke Chambers once as the Blues beat Bristol Rovers 3-0 in Portman Road’s first competitive behind-closed-doors game to progress to round two of the Carabao Cup. Sears opened the scoring on 29, Chambers doubled the lead a minute before the break before the striker added the third in the 68th minute.
Aaron Drinan, who featured for the first team throughout pre-season having spent much of his time out on loan since joining the club in January 2018, was handed his Town debut as the central striker with Sears on his left and Alan Judge to his right in the Blues’ now familiar 4-3-3 formation.
In midfield, Jon Nolan appeared to have replaced Flynn Downes, who was due to play before being given a few days off to clear his head following the interest from Crystal Palace, alongside Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop.
At the back, Chambers was at right-back with Kane Vincent-Young and Janoi Donacien both injured, while Stephen Ward made his Town debut at left-back. Toto Nsiala and Luke Woolfenden were the centre-halves with Tomas Holy in goal.
New frontman Oli Hawkins, who is short on training, was named on the bench, as was young centre-half Corrie Ndaba, yet to make his Blues debut having only been on the senior bench on four previous occasions.
Town were without strikers James Norwood and Kayden Jackson, midfielder Cole Skuse and left-back Myles Kenlock due to injury, while Armando Dobra is away with the Albania U21s.
Former Town midfielder Ed Upson was on the bench for the Pirates, who started without a recognised out and out striker with Sam Nicholson and Cameron Hargreaves playing off Jayden Mitchell-Lawson in a 3-4-2-1 system.
Owner Marcus Evans was on the pitch watching the warm-up and chatting with general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill and first-team coach Matt Gill, and later manager Paul Lambert.
In stark contrast to the start of previous seasons, the teams made their way onto the pitch to little fanfare at an empty Portman Road, aside from the small media pack and the directors’ box. The Blues were back in the home dressing room having changed in the Sir Bobby Robson Suite prior to the West Ham friendly.
Debutant Drinan struck the first shot of the game in the third minute, latching on to Woolfenden ball looped behind the backline. However, Rovers keeper Jordi van Stappershoef got down to save.
In the seventh minute, with the players’ shouts and calls very audible, particularly those of keeper Holy, in the reserves-like atmosphere, Chambers sent a ball on from the right for Nolan, who was given a shove as he sought to get on to it by visitors skipper Max Ehmer, however, referee Will Finnie showed no interest.
Soon after, Chambers and Luke Leahy clashed on the touchline with the Blues captain appearing to aim a gentle kick towards the grounded wing-back, again with no interest from the officials.
Sears saw a deflected strike bounce harmlessly through to Van Stappershoef on 11 after cutting in from the left having been found out wide by Judge.
As the game approached the quarter-hour mark Bristol Rovers struck their first effort of the game, but Josh Grant hit a poor effort wide of Holy’s right post.
From Holy’s goal-kick, the ball reached Judge on the edge of the opposition box but the Irish international shot over.
The Blues had been in control throughout the opening spell, playing the passing game boss Lambert and his staff had sought to instil during pre-season, although a little more direct at times. However, as was the case at Cambridge last week, without looking particularly threatening.
After Ward had smashed a half-volleyed cross against a defender and out for a corner from a Judge cross, play quickly moved to the other end and Zain Westbrooke stabbed a Leahy cross from the left just past Holy’s right post.
Dozzell was shown Town’s first yellow card of the season on 24 for pulling back Cameron Hargreaves midway inside the Blues’ half.
Town were beginning to look more of a goal threat and on 28 Drinan worked himself space on the right to cross for Bishop, however, the keeper was first to the ball.
But a minute later, the Irishman created the Blues’ first goal of the season for Sears. Nsiala found Drinan down the right flank with a superb pass and the former Waterford man weighted a perfect ball into the path of Sears at the far post from where the striker stroked home.
Bishop’s direct running at the Bristol Rovers defence had caused the visitors problems throughout the half and on 36 the midfielder had passed three defenders before being dispossessed.
A minute later, there was a big scare for Town when Sam Nicholson burst into the right of the box with only Holy to beat but the keeper stood his ground and saved.
On 43 Dozzell, having just made a delightful flick, played a brilliant pass into the path of Ward on the left. The Irishman’s cross was cleared and Drinan laid it off to Nolan, whose strike was deflected over.
However, from the resultant corner, the Blues doubled their lead. Judge sent the ball into the area and skipper Chambers flicked a header into the net at the near post to make it 2-0 at half-time.
Town deserved their lead having been the better side throughout the period with their midfield well in control.
They had begun to look more dangerous the longer the half progressed with Nsiala and Drinan both playing important roles in Sears’s opener. Bristol Rovers boss Ben Garner won’t be happy with the ease with which Chambers scored his goal.
At the other end, Rovers had perhaps surprisingly shown little inclination to press the Blues into forced errors as they passed the ball out from the back and they had really only had one serious chance when Holy saved from Nicholson, who will feel he ought to have scored.
Rovers made a change ahead of the second half with striker Jonah Ayunga taking over from midfielder Hargreaves.
Ehmer scuffed a header through to Holy from a corner four minutes after the restart, Woolfenden having diverted a cross from the left behind.
On 52, Chambers looped in a cross from the right which eventually reached Nolan on the edge of the box and the former Shrewsbury man hit a low shot which Van Stappershoef saved.
Within a minute, Rovers weren’t too far away from pulling a goal back when Leahy’s cross from the left was too high for Ward and Little smashed a volley wide as he broke in beyond the far post.
Dozzell shot through to Van Stappershoef following a corner in the 57th minute as the Blues continued in much the same vein as the first half.
Sears will feel he should have scored his second of the game on 62 when the ball fell to his feet in eight yards out following a free-kick. However, the ex-West Ham man dallied and keeper Van Stappershoef was able to close him down and block his shot.
Drinan will feel he should have netted his first senior goal for the Blues a minute later when he was found in the middle eight yards out by Judge’s cross from the right. The Irishman looked certain to score but shot too close to Van Stappershoef, who blocked his powerful effort superbly.
The Gas swapped Baldwin for Josh Hare in the 67th minute as they looked for an unlikely way back into the match.
Any hopes the visitors had of a comeback were all but extinguished a minute later when Sears netted his second of the game in a very similar manner to his first.
This time it was Bishop, having been found by Chambers, who sent over a low pass from the right into his path and the striker curled deftly between the post and keeper Van Stappershoef to make it 3-0.
As Rovers prepared to restart Drinan, who could be well pleased with his long-awaited Town debut, was replaced by Hawkins, the recent signing also making his Blues bow.
Woolfenden was yellow-carded for a foul on Ayunga on 72, then two minutes later ex-Town youngster Upson, the scorer of the winning goal in the 2005 FA Youth Cup final, took over from Little for the Pirates.
Town switched Bishop, another who could be well happy with his afternoon’s work, for Gwion Edwards in the 79th minute, before captain Chambers was also subbed having suffered a knock. Ndaba became the afternoon’s fourth Blues debutant.
Grant was shown Rovers’ first yellow card for a foul on 86, Judge hitting the free-kick powerfully into the wall.
In the final scheduled minute, Westbrooke curled a shot wide but Blues keeper Holy wasn’t to be denied his first clean sheet of the season.
A comfortable win for the Blues in their first behind-closed-doors competitive fixture with the 3-0 scoreline a fair reflection of a game they always in controlled.
Rovers rarely threatened and Town might well have scored more with Sears and Drinan having had chances to make the scoreline even more convincing.
The draws for the second and third round of the Carabao Cup will be made live on Sky Sports on Sunday following the Brentford-Wycombe tie.
The second round draw will be regionalised on a north-south basis with the 13 Premier League teams not in Europe coming into the competition.
Each tie will be given a number which will be used in the draw for the third round so clubs can see their potential path.
Town are next in action in the EFL Trophy at home to Arsenal’s U21s on Tuesday night before their League One campaign gets under way when Wigan Athletic visit for a live Sky game a week on Sunday.
Town: Holy, Chambers (c) (Ndaba 80), Nsiala, Woolfenden, Ward, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop (Edwards 79), Judge, Sears, Drinan (Hawkins 70). Unused: Cornell, Wilson, Lankester, Huws.
Bristol Rovers: Van Stappershoef, Little (Upson 74), Leahy, Grant, Ehmer (c), Westbrooke, Mitchell-Lawson, Nicholson, Kilgour, Hargreaves (Ayunga 46), Baldwin (Hare 67). Unused: Andre Jr, Harries, Kelly, Walker. Referee: Will Finnie (Luton).
Photo: Matchday Images
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